Gonzalo Pineda recorded his first win as a head coach after Atlanta United defeated Orlando City 3-0 in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Friday night. Goals from George Campbell and Ezequiel Barco delivered the first points of the Pineda era in a dominant display over the Lions in what will be a massive three points in the Five Stripes’ push for a Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“It’s not about my first victory,” Pineda said. “It’s about these three points that were important for the club…This is a reward for them [and] the fans.”
There’s no doubt that Pineda didn’t have the entirety of his team available for selection. Miles Robinson, Josef Martinez and Ronald Hernandez didn’t make the match day squad after coming back from their respective national teams, while George Bello started the match on the bench.
However, luckily for Pineda, a few players have returned from injury. Santiago Sosa and Jake Mulraney returned to the starting lineup, while George Campbell slotted in for Miles in the backline. Mo Adams also made the bench after missing games due to injury.
Amar Sejdic has a muscle injury and Ronald Hernandez tested positive for Covid-19 while International duty, according to a club source.
Luiz Araujo nearly blew the Benz up in the opening minutes with a curler from outside Orlando’s penalty area, but he hit the post. When he does eventually make one of those, the Benz is going to explode.
There were a couple of more chances, but Atlanta couldn’t put the ball on target. Then Araujo pulled of this sublime nutmeg that got everyone on their feet.
In the 25th minute, Campbell connected with Marcelino Moreno’s cross to put Atlanta United ahead of Orlando. That’s the homegrown defenders’ first MLS for the first team. It’s a good summer for American defenders at Atlanta United this season.
“It was amazing,” Campbell said. “Even better because it’s my mom’s birthday today. We were actually kind of telling them to wait a little for some guys to get into the box, but once it was taken I decided to gamble.”
In the 38th minute, Moreno won a free kick right outside Orlando’s penalty area. Ezequiel Barco whipped it in, and then it ended up in the back of the net off of Orlando City forward Daryl Dike.
With a little help from our friendly neighbors pic.twitter.com/dFQR42IiFA— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 11, 2021
In the 58th minute, Araujo played an excellent aerial through ball into space for Barco to run onto, but Barco couldn't put it on target. Then two minutes later, Araujo played in Moreno for a trivela shot, but that wasn't on target either. Those moves highlighted what this Atlanta United team can do.
Barco got a goal credited to his name in the 72nd minute. After putting multiple Orlando players on skates all on his own, he powered the ball into the bottom right corner.
Barco now has five goals on the season, which is the most he’s scored in a single season for Atlanta United.
Santiago Sosa will miss Atlanta's next game due to yellow card accumulation— Kyle Soto (@kyledsoto) September 11, 2021
And that’s how it ended.
- This was a fun and dominant performance from Atlanta. You couldn’t even tell that the Five Stripes were missing two of their best players in Josef Martinez and Miles Robinson. Atlanta ON the offensive side of the ball, Atlanta took 18 shots to Orlando’s eight. The chances Atlanta created were good chances, too. The team attacked in various ways and put sustained pressure on Orlando for long stretches of the match, all while never really looking like they were in danger of conceding or losing this match.
- This is a good result for Atlanta’s internet presence, but also for Atlanta’s playoff chase. Orlando came into this match second in the East, and to defeat the Lions with the players Atlanta was missing speaks volumes. Atlanta came in tied with Columbus, on 27 points and is now tied with D.C. United on 30 points. Both of those teams play tomorrow, so be on the lookout for those results and how they impact the table. Credit to Pineda for getting this team right after a disappointing performance against Nashville.
- Playing with more than one central midfielder is good! In the last match against Nashville, Amar Sejdic essentially tried to hold down the middle of the field by himself, partly because Pineda had so many center midfielders missing due to injury. Now that Santiago Sosa is back to starting-level fitness and is able to step back into the lineup, Atlanta was able to put more bodies in the middle. However, the same questions remain about fitting the entire BAMM quartet into the same lineup in the 3-5-2 set up. Josef should be available on Wednesday, so I guess we’ll find out then.
Here’s a post match interview with coach Pineda:
First victory of the Pineda era was PHENOMENAL pic.twitter.com/Pze2afbfPB— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 11, 2021
Atlanta United’s next matchup comes against FC Cincinnati next Wednesday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
— Justin Meram (@JustinMeram) September 11, 2021